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Why is employee engagement at an all-time low? Why is turnover as high as it is? Why are employees constantly looking for better opportunities?
When you think about those questions, combined with what I wrote in my post on Employee Engagement: A Confluence of Passion and Purpose…
That engagement comes from within the employee, and yet the company has a role in it, as well. When there’s some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (mission, purpose, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment – then we have employee engagement.
… it makes you question where the company is lacking. And, by company, I mean, the leadership of the company.
So let’s talk about leadership.
It’s been more than five years since I first listened to – and wrote about – Bob Chapman’s TEDx talk about Truly Human Leadership. I’ve included links to that post in several other posts since then. His message is a powerful one and probably resonates with me even more today. It doesn’t hurt that I had a great conversation with him a few months after I wrote that post and learned more about what he and Simon Sinek were doing together to stand up a leadership institute. And since then, I’ve read his book and watched his Amazon Prime documentary short by the same name, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.
Here’s his basic, yet powerful, underlying message:
We have a crisis in leadership in this country and in this world. … In the United States, an estimated 88% of the workforce, 130 million people, go home every day feeling that they work for an organization that doesn’t listen or care about them. That is seven out of eight people! These are our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters; they all have a high probability of working for an organization that doesn’t care for them as individuals but instead sees them merely as functions or objects, as means to the success of the organization.
He goes on to say:
We’re destroying people and killing our culture because we send people home after treating them as objects and functions, instead of caring about them as human beings. We want them more engaged because we want them more productive. We want more productivity out of them because that creates more profits and that creates a better future for the company, but we don’t care about them as people.
Ouch! And yet, so true.
And then this…
The good news is we have the power to change this and begin healing tomorrow. We just need to engage our heads and our hearts in an approach to leadership that validates the worth of every individual, an approach in which everybody matters.
Everybody matters. Amen.
Leaders have an awesome responsibility over their employees. Treat people like people. We are all human. Why do leaders fail to see employees as humans? Why do employees lose human status the second they walk into their employers’ offices?
There’s more – and the quotes above are from Chapter 4 in his book – but you’ll just have to read it to find out what’s next. (And, no, I don’t get an affiliate fee if you click the link, and Bob hasn’t paid me to write about his book. It’s just that powerful – and that important.)
If you want to better understand the crisis, check out this video.
It’s a compelling message; if this message doesn’t move you to do something in your organization, I’m not sure what will. We can change the world. We can change how we treat each other, every day. We can change those employee engagement numbers. As leaders, as executives, we choose.
But what can we do? Where does it begin? How do we move from me-centric leadership and a me-centric organization to a we-centric organization? (Sounds a little like Weology, doesn’t it?)
It comes down to culture, right? That’s one piece of it.
Having the right values and guiding principles in place is a solid foundation and really creates the framework within which leaders can create an organization that puts people first, profits last, aka Truly Human Leadership. Take care of your people, and they will take care of the business.
The other piece of it is that your CEO and her executive team (the entire team, everyone on the same page) must choose to lead differently. It begins with them. The choice is theirs. The day they choose to lead differently is the day employees take notice. And it’s the day that they’ll want to become part of the change.
How do you lead differently? Consider adhering to Bob’s 10 Commandments of Truly Human Leadership:
- Begin every day with a focus on the lives you touch.
- Know that leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you.
- Embrace leadership practices that send people home each day safe, healthy, and fulfilled.
- Align all actions to an inspirational vision of a better future.
- Trust is the foundation of all relationships; act accordingly.
- Look for goodness in people and recognize and celebrate it daily.
- Ask no more or less of anyone than you would of your own child.
- Lead with a clear sense of grounded optimism.
- Recognize and flex to the uniqueness of everyone.
- Always measure success by the way you touch the lives of people.
Imagine if every CEO ran her company based o
n these Commandments!
Everybody Matters is about what happens when ordinary people throw away long-accepted management practices and start operating from their deepest sense of right, with a sense of profound responsibility for the lives entrusted to them. -Bob Chapman
You started with a question: "Why is employee engagement at an all time low?"
Here's the reason: Ask a random selection of executives to define employee engagement. You won't get a consistent answer. It's hard to improve something if we can't even agree on what it is.
It does start with that. True. Perhaps I should have used a different term (or expanded that to include employee experience, employee happiness, employee satisfaction, employee retention, etc. – perhaps to further clarify) because I don't want the point to get lost in definitions: employees are treated like a cog in a wheel, a means to an end, with very little or no concerns about them as human beings most of the time.
This quote sums it up nicely: “If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning.”
– John Mackey, Whole Foods Market
I'm a little more mercenary Annette.
If you treat people well they will treat you well.
Which has to be good for the bottom line. Doesn't it?
Great point. Seems like it ought to be that simple, right?!
Great points Annette. Reminds me of a book I read in 1999 "First, Break all the Rules" by Marcus Buckingham. He shared 12 questions that Gallup determined were a good measure of employee engagement. I took them to heart back then and love them still today. Questions like "Do I know what is expected of me at work?" and "Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?" and "Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?" (more here: https://christopherfeld.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/gallups-12-questions-to-measure-employee-engagement/)
This is so important and really feeds the heart of an organization.
Thanks, Kim, for making that connection. After asking those questions, leaders need to do something with that feedback! I've seen nothing happen with the results too often. If done and done right, we can turn the tide!
Agree with Jeff. There is virtually no agreement on the meaning of employee engagement, either from senior organization leadership or HR executives. And, there is only incidental connection between engagement scores and customer loyalty behavior. There is, however, strong linkage between employee experience and customer experience. We define multi-layered employee commitment as ambassadorship: https://beyondphilosophy.com/u-s-employee-engagement-reaches-three-year-high-where-customer-experience-and-value-delivery-are-concerned-shouldnt-we-ask-so-what/
Thanks for sharing that, Michael.